Wisconsin Alternative Teacher Certification

Prospective teachers who have not completed a traditional teacher preparation program may pursue alternative teacher certification in Wisconsin. Alternative teacher preparation programs, also known as non-traditional programs, are designed for those who have a bachelor’s degree outside of education and typically lead to the award of a certificate or master’s degree. If you do not have a bachelor’s degree, visit our guide to traditional route certification in Wisconsin. There are several pathways to alternative certification in Wisconsin that are primarily designed to attract educators in critical shortage content fields, such as STEM subjects. Continue reading to find out more about the pathways available for non-traditional teachers.

Requirements for Alternative Certification

The minimum requirement to pursue alternative teacher certification in Wisconsin is typically a bachelor’s degree. In most cases, candidates must complete, or have a plan to complete, an alternative teacher preparation program. You can see alternative teacher preparation programs that hold state approval through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Types of Alternative Teaching Licenses in Wisconsin

Wisconsin offers six different pathways to alternative teacher certification which accommodate individuals with diverse education and experience backgrounds who are interested in transitioning to teaching. For most pathways, the minimum qualification is a bachelor’s degree; to earn full certification, most candidates will need to complete a state-approved alternative teacher preparation program.

Alternative Route Program Pathway

The Alternative Route Program Pathway requires candidates to have a bachelor’s degree with a major in the subject to be taught. This pathway is only for designated shortage areas such as mathematics, science, and special education. See the Department of Public Instruction for a full list of current shortage areas. Candidates with a bachelor’s degree in an approved area must pass a basic skills exam and a content knowledge exam in their desired content area. Then they must apply to an approved Alternative Route Program Provider. Upon admission, candidates will complete teacher preparation through that provider, typically while teaching at the same time. The Department of Public Instruction provides a list of program providers. After completing the program, candidates will be eligible for an Initial Educator License.

American Board Certification Pathway

Candidates who have a bachelor’s degree and completed a teacher preparation program through the American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) are eligible for provisional licensure. ABCTE only offers preparation in select subjects, including but not limited to biology, chemistry, elementary education, and English. To be admitted to the program, candidates must pass the ABCTE’s required exams. Visit the ABCTE website for additional information on this teacher preparation pathway.

Experience-based Technical and Vocational Education Subjects Pathway

This pathway is a close equivalent to career and technical education certification in other states. Subject areas such as information technology, engineering, and transportation are covered under this pathway. Candidates must have significant training and experience in a trade, technical field, or vocational area to earn an endorsement in a career and technical subject area. Refer to the DPI for an explanation of qualifications by field type. Once hired under a provisional license, candidates following this pathway must complete a professional development curriculum to earn full licensure.

Candidates who have five years of industry experience and a bachelor’s degree may qualify for an initial Professional Teaching Permit in a technical and vocational education subject after completing 100 hours of formal teacher training and passing the required content area exams. Visit the DPI website for detailed information on requirements.

License Based on Equivalency

The Equivalency Pathway is most often used by those who have a bachelor’s degree and three years of teaching experience, such as in a private school setting or in a college or university. Equivalency may also apply to out-of-state teachers, particularly those who qualified for their initial license under an alternative route pathway. Under this pathway, candidates complete a performance-based assessment to become eligible for a Provisional Educator License. This two-part assessment includes taking the edTPA exam as well as submitting prepared materials that demonstrate the candidate’s ability to teach to Wisconsin’s educator standards, which include a video recording of the applicant in a classroom teaching situation. For more information, see the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website.

Post-Baccalaureate Pathway

Under the Post-Baccalaureate Pathway, candidates return to school to earn a master’s degree or postgraduate certificate that includes an approved teacher preparation program. Note that this pathway only qualifies candidates for licensure if a Wisconsin-approved school is attended. You can see a list of approved schools through the Department of Public Instruction. Candidates in this pathway must also pass the state exams for educators to become eligible for an Initial Educator License.

Trade Specialist Pathway

This pathway is open to candidates who completed an apprenticeship program and three years of experience in a given occupational area. Candidates may also qualify with four years of institutional training in an occupational area or if they are certified by the technical college system board to teach an industrial arts or similar subject. Areas recognized include machining, welding, and auto body repair. View the guidelines for the Trade Specialist Pathway for further details.

Testing Requirements for Wisconsin Alternative Certification

In most cases, those following alternative pathways will need to pass the same exams as all other educators in the state. These include the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators to measure basic skills and the appropriate Praxis Subject Assessment(s) or ACTFL World Language test for the subject(s) to be taught. Those who wish to teach early childhood, elementary education, special education, and reading must also take and pass the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test.

Transferring Teaching Licenses from Another State

For experienced teachers with out-of-state certifications and at least one year of teaching experience, reciprocity in Wisconsin may be possible provided that applicants fulfill the remaining criteria. Candidates must have an employment offer from a Wisconsin school district to apply for a reciprocal license. In some cases, out-of-state applicants may be able to waive the examination requirements. Those who completed a teacher preparation program out-of-state but do not have one year of experience may qualify for the Out-of-State Pathway. For more details on reciprocity, review our teaching license reciprocity resource or contact the state’s Department of Public Instruction.

Schools with Alternative and Master’s Programs in Wisconsin

Completing an approved teacher certification program is a requirement for all prospective teachers in Wisconsin. The following school-based preparation programs typically culminate in a certificate or master’s degree and have been approved by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI):

  • Alverno College (Master’s)
  • Cardinal Stritch University (Certificate, Master’s)
  • Carroll University (Master’s)
  • Carthage College* (Alternative, Master’s)
  • Concordia University Wisconsin (Master’s)
  • Edgewood College* (Alternative, Master’s)
  • Maranatha Baptist University (Master’s)
  • Marian University (Master’s)
  • Marquette University (Certificate, Master’s)
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison (Master’s), Milwaukee (Certificate), River Falls (Certificate, Master’s), Stevens Point* (Alternative, Certificate), Stout (Master’s)
  • Viterbo University (Certificate, Master’s)
  • Wisconsin Lutheran College (Master’s)

*Schools with an asterisk offer programs that can include paid classroom placements, subject to qualifications and experience. The student may be responsible for securing their own placement. Contact program(s) of interest for further information.

Additional Resources

1. Wisconsin State Department of Public Instruction: https://dpi.wi.gov/